Quote of the Week: John Adams on the Next Generation

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john-adams
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“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.” ― John Adams


As a Founding Father, John Adams was instrumental in the American Revolutionary War and co-authored the Declaration of Independence. As a diplomat, he negotiated the peace treaty between the newly formed republic and Great Britain and later served as the second US president. His belief in and wisdom on Enlightenment ideals like liberty, constitutional government and the separation of powers permeate his letters to his wife, Abigail, and colleagues.

Most parents would say that they work to give their children every opportunity that they never had growing up. With each generation, life builds on its adaptations and refines its success. With each iteration, our hope is that we become less confined by our immediate necessities and more open to pursuing our long-term goals.

In a letter to his wife, Adams continues, “my sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”

In a way, as we enter Industry 4.0, humanity will become the older generation and Artificial Intelligence will become the next generation. We will be its creators, perhaps like a parent and it will be a kind of offspring, perhaps like a child. But, instead of the older generation working to build a better life for its children, are we on the brink of a society where our artificial offspring will work to build a better life for us?

Will concepts like Universal Basic Income and realities like Artificial Intelligence eventually create post-scarcity societies where we no longer live to work but live to work on what we like? Will this inevitably separate money from reward, and in turn, our concepts of work and success?

Artificial Intelligence, in whatever form, will change our concept of a generation: by tinkering with our lifespans, aging, genes and how we conceive and raise our children. Like every other adaptation and innovation throughout our history, technology will prove to be a tool now more than ever.

Soon, we will have to consider our priorities as a species to not only ensure the next generation of humanity survives, but that it also has every opportunity that technology can offer.

 

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